, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 951–966 | Cite as

Co-management Policy Can Reduce Resilience in Traditionally Managed Marine Ecosystems

  • Stefan Gelcich
  • Gareth Edwards-Jones
  • Michel J. Kaiser
  • Juan C. Castilla


Best-practice environmental policy often suggests co-management of marine resources as a means of achieving sustainable development. Here we consider the impacts of superimposing co-management policy, in the form of territorial user rights for fishers over an existing traditional community-based natural-resource management system in Chile. We consider a broad definition of co-management that includes a spectrum of arrangements between governments and user groups described by different levels of devolution of power. We used participatory rural appraisal techniques and questionnaires to understand the mechanisms that underpin the traditional management system for the bull-kelp “cochayuyo” (Durvillaea antarctica). Traditional management was based on the allocation of informal access rights through a lottery system. This system was controlled by a complex web of traditional institutions that were shown to be successful in terms of equity and resilience. Using a similar approach, we analyzed the effects of superimposing a government-led co-management policy into this traditional system. Two major effects of the new policy were encountered. First, traditional institutions were weakened, which had negative effects on the levels of trust within the community and intensified conflict among users. Second, the management system’s adaptive capacity was reduced, thereby jeopardizing the ecosystem’s resilience. Our results suggest that the devolution of power to this kind of fisher community still has not reached the level required for fishers to legally address the local deficiencies of the Chilean co-management policy. Additionally, legal adjustments must be made to accommodate traditionally managed ecosystems that offer benefits comparable to those mandated under the formal policy. A fuller understanding of the interactions between co-management and traditional institutions can help us to identify ways to promote resilience and facilitate equal access by mitigating the potential negative effects of co-management policy and informing its future implementation.


property rights environmental entitlements sustainability resilience artisanal fishers traditional institutions human dimension cochayuyo bull-kelp Chile 



We acknowledge the financial support of a Chilean MIDEPLAN doctoral scholarship and the Dennis Crisp Fieldwork Fund, awarded to S.G. We also acknowledge project FONDAP 1501-0001 (CASEB), awarded to J.C.C. We are especially grateful to the fishers of Puertecillo for their help and their patience with the interviews, and to Leonardo Peralta of the Navidad municipality for his support. The three anonymous referees and Professor Jianguo Liu, the subject matter editor, provided comments that were helpful in revising the article.


  1. Agrawal A. 2001. Common property institutions and sustainable governance of resources. World Develop 29: 1649–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agrawal A, Gibson CC. 1999. Enchantment and disenchantment: the role of community in natural resource conservation. World Develop 27: 629–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aswani S, Hamilton R. 2004. Integrating indigenous knowledge and customary sea tenure with marine and social science for conservation of bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) in the Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands. Environ Conserv 31:69–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berkes F, Colding J, Folke C. 2003. Introduction, In: Berkes F, Colding J, Folke C, Eds. Navigating social-ecological systems: building resilience for complexity and change. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press. pp 1–30Google Scholar
  5. Bustamante R, Castilla JC. 1990. Impact of human exploitation on populations of the intertidal southern pull-kelp Durvillaea antartica (Phaeophyta, Durvilleales) in central Chile. Biol Conserv 52:205–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carlsson L. 2003. The strategy of the commons: history and property rights in central Sweeden. Berkes F, Colding J, Folke C, Eds. Navigating social-ecological systems: building resilience for complexity and change. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press. pp 161–131Google Scholar
  7. Castilla JC. 1994. The Chilean small scale benthic shell fisheries and the institutionalization of new management practices. Ecol Int Bull 21:47–63.Google Scholar
  8. Castilla JC. 2000. Roles of experimental marine ecology in coastal management and conservation. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 250:3–21PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Castilla JC, Bustamante R. 1989. Human exclusion from rocky intertidal of Las Cruces, central Chile: effects on Durvillaea antarctica (Phaeophyta, Durvilleales). Mar Ecol Progr Ser 50:203–14Google Scholar
  10. Castilla JC, Fernandez M. 1998. Small-scale fisheries in Chile: on co-management and sustainable use of benthic invertebrates. Ecol Appl 8:S124–32Google Scholar
  11. Castilla JC, Defeo O. 2001. Latin American benthic shellfisheries: emphasis on co-management and experimental practices. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries 11:1–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Castilla JC, Defeo O. More than one bag for the world fishery crisis and keys for co-management successes in selected artisanal Latin American shellfisheries. Rev Fish Biol fisheries. ForthcomingGoogle Scholar
  13. Castillo A, Torres A, Velasquez A, Bocco G. 2005. The use of ecological science by rural producers: case study in Mexico. Ecol Appl 15:745–56Google Scholar
  14. Clarke K. 1993. Non-parametric multivariate analysis of changes in community structure. Aust J Ecol 18:117–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clarke K, Warwick R. 2001. Change in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation. 2nd ed. Plymout (UK): PRIMER-EGoogle Scholar
  16. Cleaver P. 2000. Moral Ecological Rationality. Institutions and the Management of Common Property Resources. Development and change 31:361–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Colding J, Elmqvist T, Olsson P. 2003. Living with disturbance: building resilience in social-ecological systems. In: Berkes F, Colding J, Folke C, Eds. Navigating social-ecological systems: Building resilience for complexity and change. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press. pp 163–187Google Scholar
  18. Edwards-Jones G.2001. Should we engage in farmer-participatory research in the UK? Outlook Agric 30(2):129–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Estudios Marinos. 2003. Estudio de situacion base y plan de manejo y explotacion para el area Puertecillo, VI region. CoquimboGoogle Scholar
  20. Fanning L. 2000. The co-management paradigm: examining criteria for meaningful public involvement in sutainable marine resource management. In: Mann E, Chircop A, McConnell M, Morgan J, Eds. Ocean Yearbook 14. Chicago: University Chicago Press. pp 1–14Google Scholar
  21. Folke C, Colding J, Berkes F. 2003. Synthesis: building resilience and adaptive capacity in social-ecological systems. In: Berkes F, Colding J, Folke C, Eds. Navigating social-ecological systems: building resilience for complexity and change. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press pp 352–388Google Scholar
  22. Garibaldi A, Turner N. 2004. Cultural key-stone species: implications for ecological conservation and restoration. Ecol Soc 9(3):1. [online] URL: Google Scholar
  23. Gelcich S, Edwards-Jones G, Kaiser M, Watson E.2005a. Using discourses for policy evaluation: the case of marine common property rights in Chile. Soc Nat Resources 18(4):377–91.Google Scholar
  24. Gelcich S, Edwards-Jones G, Kaiser M. 2005b. Importance of attitudinal differences among artisanal fishers with respect to co-management and consolation of benthic resources. Conserv Biol 19(3):865–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Guillotreau P, Cunningham S. 1994. The management implications of overlapping property rights: The case of the Solent oyster fishery. Research Paper 71. centre for the economics and management of aquatic resource, UK, Portsmouth: University of PortsmouthGoogle Scholar
  26. Gunderson LH. 2000. Ecological resilience in theory and application. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 31:425–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Heltberg R. 2001. Determinants and impact of local institutions for common resource management. Environ develop Econ 6:183–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Holling CS, Sanderson S. 1996. Dynamics of (dis)harmony in ecological and social systems. In: Hanna S, Folke C, Maler K, Eds. Rights to nature: ecological, cultural, and political principles of institutions for the environment. Washington (DC): Island PressGoogle Scholar
  29. Johannes RE. 2002. The renaissance of community-based marine resource management in Oceania. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 33:317–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Johnson C. 2001. Community formation and fisheries conservation in southern Thailand. Develop Change 32:951–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Leach M, Mearns R, Scoons I. 1999. Environmental entitlements: dynamics and institutions in community-based natural resource management. World Develop 27(2):225–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lobe K, Berkes F. 2004. The padu system of community-based fisheries management: change and local institutional innovation in south India. Mar Policy 28:271–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McCay B. 1995. Social and ecological implications of ITQs: an overview. Mar Policy 28:3–22Google Scholar
  34. Meltzoff S, Lichtensztajn Y, Stotz W. 2002. Competing visions for marine tenure and co-management: genesis of a marine management area system in Chile. Coast manage 30:85–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mosse D. 1994. Authority, gender and knowledge: theoretical reflections on the practice of participatory and rural appraisal. Develop Change 25:497–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mosse D. 2004. Is good policy unimplementable? Reflections on the ethnography of aid policy and practice. Develop Change 35:639–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. North D. 1990. Institutions, institutional change and economic performance. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  38. Olsson P, Folke C. 2001. Local ecological knowledge and institutional dynamics for ecosystem management: study of Lake Racken Watershed, Sweden. Ecosystems 4:85–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ostrom E. 1990. Governing the commons: The evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  40. Pauly D, Alder J, Bennett E, Christensen V, Tyedmers P, Watson R. 2003. The future for fisheries. Science 302:1359–61PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pinto da Silva P. 2004. From common property to co-management: lessons from Brazil’s first maritime extractive reserve. Mar Policy 28:419–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pomeroy R, Berkes F. 1997. Two to tango: the role of government in fisheries co-management. Mar Policy 21:465–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pretty J, Ward H. 2001. Social Capital and the environment. World Develop 29(2):209–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Santelices B, Castilla JC, Cancino J, Schmiede P. 1980. Comparative ecology of Lessonia nigrescens and Durvillaea antartlca (Pheophyta) in central Chile. Mar Biol 59:119–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. [SECPLAC] Secretaria Comunal de Planificacion. Illustre municipalidad de NavidadGoogle Scholar
  46. Seixas C, Berkes F. 2003. Dynamics of social-ecological changes in a lagoon fishery in southern Brazil, In: Berkes F, Colding J, Folke C, Eds. Navigating social ecological systems: building resilience for complexity and change. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press. pp 271–299Google Scholar
  47. Sen S, Neilsln R. 1996. Fisheries co-management: a comparative analysis. Mar Policy 20:357–CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. [Subpesca] Subsecretaria de Pesca, Valparaiso, Chile.2004. Concepto de areas de manejo y recursos bentonicos. Documento de difusion 1. Available online at: (accessed August 2003)
  49. Watson EE. 2003. Examining the potential of indigenous institutions for Development: a perspective from Borana, Ethiopia. Develop Change 34:287–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefan Gelcich
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Gareth Edwards-Jones
    • 1
  • Michel J. Kaiser
    • 2
  • Juan C. Castilla
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Agricultural and Forest SciencesUniversity of Wales–BangorBangorUK
  2. 2.School of Ocean SciencesUniversity of Wales–BangorMenai BridgeUK
  3. 3.Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Ecologia and Biodiversidad, Facultad de Ciencias BiologicasPontificia Universidad Catolica de ChileCasillaChile

Personalised recommendations